Israel could easily destroy Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque, but emphatically does not want to, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
In remarks to Likud colleagues, Netanyahu said Israel could rid the Temple Mount of the mosque with little effort, but that to do so would contradict everything that Israel represents.
If Israel “wanted to destroy Al-Aqsa, it would not require a great effort… but it goes against everything we stand for,” the prime minister told his party’s Knesset faction on Wednesday, in a recording played by Army Radio on Thursday afternoon.
The mosque atop the Temple Mount — which is the holiest place in Judaism as the site of the two biblical temples — has been at the heart of a wave of Palestinian terrorism and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in recent months. Palestinian leaders and media have alleged that Israel intends to change the decades-long arrangements under which Jews are allowed to visit but barred from praying on the Mount — something Netanyahu has repeatedly insisted is not the case.
Ironically, the recording of Netanyahu’s remarks was leaked from a closed meeting at which the prime minister had stressed the imperative not to leak his remarks.
In the same meeting, Netanyahu also derided opposition leader Isaac Herzog for lacking the security credentials necessary to run Israel.
Herzog retorted in an interview with Amry Radio that the prime minister is “weak when it comes to deeds, and strong only when it comes to words.” The Zionist Union party chief said he’d be able to bolster Israel’s security, improve its international standing, and even “bring international recognition for the Etzion Bloc” of settlements south of Jerusalem.